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In ex-Washington Redskins lineman Russ Grimm, the Pro Football Hall of Fame chooses a perfectly deserving Hog

By Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 7, 2010; D01

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.

Russ Grimm lay on the field, his belly protruding from his jersey. His position coach took a hard look at his young offensive guard -- still lying in the dirt and gunk.

"Russ, get up," Joe Bugel said in the middle of a blocking drill. "You look like a hog layin' on the ground."

The next day at practice every offensive lineman showed up with T-shirts with the word "Hog" written on the front.

"Whaddya guys doin'?" Buges asked.

"We're in solidarity with Russ, sir," they said.

This was nearly 30 years ago, before family men put on homely dresses and plastic pig snouts and steam-cleaned their wigs, calling themselves the "Hogettes," their charitable tribute to the most recognized group of offensive linemen in NFL history -- a position on a football field that has gone, for most of a century, unrecognized.

This was before Russell Scott Grimm, who teammates say perfectly represented Bugel's description of a "snot-nosed Sluggo" more than any of them, got the call from Canton on Saturday, his name among those called for 2010 Hall of Fame enshrinement.

"The name 'Hog' came from Russ Grimm, that's why it's so appropriate," said Jim Lachey, a contributor on the last of the Washington Redskins' four Super Bowl-qualifying teams, and the third to win a title, in a 10-year-span -- an era as laden with glory as it was grit.

And the grittiest of them all and -- okay, and the grossest -- was Grimm.

"Grimmie!" exclaimed Rick "Doc" Walker, a tight end on those teams, hearing of the news late Saturday afternoon. "Grimy. He had so many nicknames. I'm so happy for him. Russ was not only an elite player, he was that rare cross between Hell's angel and football player."

Grimmie anecdotes kept coming Saturday, each one more arresting than the next. The most startling, recently reported by The Post's Dan Steinberg on the day Bugel retired from coaching the offensive line, concerned a piece of meat. Specifically pork. Had to be pork.

"We were in Carlisle for training camp one year and we got hot dogs for lunch," said Canton-worthy Joe Jacoby, repeating the story Saturday night. "Well, Russ's lunch didn't stay down on him when we got to practice. You know what I mean? He just chucked up a hot dog.

"One of our ballboys, we called him 'Booger,' just looked at it and said, 'Ooooh, that's gross.' Russ looked at him and said, 'You think that's gross, watch this.' He blew the dirt off the piece of dog on the ground, picked it up and ate it. True story.

"So that's why I think he got in the Hall of Fame," Jacoby added, laughing. "The toughness factor."

"Russ was very partial in August and September, actually he was really notorious, of throwin' up on either mine or Jacoby's shoes," said Jeff Bostic, moments before the decision was announced at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. "Russ wasn't a fan of warm weather."

For every beer-swilling, when-men-were-men tale about Grimm, there were of course other genuine reasons why he got in -- reasons that spoke more to why the voters plucked him from a group of what many NFL observers called one of the most impressive list of candidates ever on the ballot. (Special thanks from the Grimm family should go to David Elfin, the former Washington Times writer, who gave a strong presentation on behalf of Grimm two years after Elfin helped sway voters Art Monk's way, and Leonard Shapiro, a washingtonpost.com writer and presenter of Redskin greats, who also spoke on behalf of Grimm on Saturday. Current Washington Post writers do not vote.)

"He was a student of the game, he studied everything about his opponent," Jacoby said. "He knew how to turn a guy, which way his opponents like to turn somebody, everything."

Bostic: "There's never been a better guard to ever play in the game. When it was him and Randy White, he won almost all of them battles. Russ kicked his [butt]. I don't know how Randy White got in the Hall of Fame before him, to be honest."

White actually helped Grimm get in. Testimonials gathered by Elfin from the former Cowboys defensive menace, Bill Parcells, Harry Carson and Matt Millen, who called Grimm "the smartest offensive lineman" he ever played against, helped ensure he would have a bronze bust alongside Joe Gibbs, John Riggins, Monk and Darrell Green.

The more former teammates kept chiming in about Grimm on Saturday, it became clear that his selection not only further validated his own career but also the careers of the men he blocked and pulled alongside in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Indeed, the operative quote used by all Saturday after learning that a fellow Hog is going to Canton seemed to be, "What took so long?

"It really speaks volume for all of us," Bostic said. "It didn't matter who was back there running, if it was John Riggins, Ricky Ervins, Gerald Riggs, Earnest Byner, George Rogers or Timmy Smith.

"Where else does anybody like Timmy Smith come out of the blue at the Super Bowl and rush for a record [204] yards? Can anybody tell me who Timmy Smith was before that game? Didn't matter who the quarterback was, [Joe] Theismann, [Jay] Schroeder, Doug Williams, [Mark] Rypien, It didn't matter. Just get behind us and drive the car."

So Saturday wasn't just for Grimm. It was for Jacoby, Bostic, Lachey, Walker, George Starke, Donnie Warren, Mark Schlereth, Mark May, Raleigh McKenzie. "The problem is the Hall of Fame is not correct in just honoring the individual," Lachey said. "The Hogs as a group should go in, just like the Doomsday Defense should have went in as a group and the Purple People Eaters. We can't be separated. We couldn't have done what we did without each other.

"So while I'm happy for Russ, it makes you wonder. Does that mean Jeff Bostic isn't good enough? Joe Jacoby isn't good enough? No."

Jacoby, who said he planned to re-institute the 5 o'clock club in Canton while honoring Grimm in August at his enshrinement -- "We'll find a shed somewhere" -- seemed to sum up the Hogs' feelings Saturday the best:

"It's a start," he said.

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